By Damien Martin
As states and countries begin to ease restrictions and open back up, we are gearing up for the return of travel. If you’ve been on a plane since mid-March, you know things are a lot different than they used to be. If you haven’t flown, here are a few things to know. First, the Department of Homeland Security has pushed back the REAL ID deadline to Oct. 1, 2021, so those without enhanced driver’s licenses may still use their regular IDs when going through security.
The State Department still has a Level 4 travel advisory in effect, and as countries open up, restarting tourism may go slowly as they try to avoid people from other countries bringing coronavirus with them. If you need a passport, applications and renewals have reopened, though the State Department advises the process could take several months and discourages new passport applications, which are in-person, except in cases of emergency. Still, if your passport is due to expire soon, now is a good time to renew by mail. Within six months of expiry, many countries won’t let you in anyway, so you might as well send it in.
Domestic travel will get going in earnest first. Perhaps your first venture out will be by car within a few hours of home. Fortunately for you, your travel advisor knows hidden gems in every state. If you’re skittish about being around a lot of people, we know the best boutique hotels. If you want to avoid major cities, we know the best ranches and retreats to enjoy the great outdoors.
If you are flying, you might not get that discount fare you’ve been hoping for. That’s because in order to achieve social distancing, airlines won’t be filling every seat. With fewer seats to sell, they’re likely to charge enough to make up the difference. You’ll probably be required to wear a mask, as several airlines are instituting new policies starting this month.
Before you get on the plane, things will be different too. You should always get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, but now that’s even more important as the TSA grapples with how to maintain social distancing in security lines and depending on the airport you may have to take a temperature test and be subject to secondary screening if your temperature is above a certain threshold. If you miss your flight, there might not be another one going to the same destination for several hours and it will be much harder to reaccommodate you than when there were so many more flights operating. Once you’re at the gate, don’t expect to be able to board as soon as passengers from the previous flight deplane. The process will take longer as flight attendants sanitize the plane.
Once you land and get to your hotel, you’ll see enhanced sanitation measures there, and you might be asked to check in via smartphone. You probably won’t see a breakfast buffet, so room service will be more commonplace. Restaurants will have rearranged seating to make sure diners can be at least 6 feet apart from other tables.
The attractions you visit will have social distancing rules in place as well, and private guides will become more popular as the logistics of group tours change. The good news is this might do away with overcrowding in a lot of places that had become overrun in recent years. As always, your travel advisor is a great source for securing the best guides and tours with safety protocols in place.
Travel is coming back, and we’re to help you navigate the world as it is now.